Peter Rhodes on similar TV characters, dry reservoirs and cameras trapping the ungodly

The reservoirs drain across southern England and Whitehall is considering imposing a hosepipe ban. Shouldn't this happen the other way around?

Is it Thursday?
Is it Thursday?

Britain is a big and bustling country with a population of almost 70 million and the month of July was utterly bizarre and exceptional. So what are the odds that, during the month, at least one poor devil got sunburn, sunstroke, Covid-19 and monkey pox?

Many years ago a Woolworth manager showed me his store spy cameras for detecting shoplifters. Back in those days, the primitive cameras simply looked, filmed and recorded. The clever stuff, what we would now call the software, was in the brains of the staff using the kit who had been trained to spot repeat offenders and the tell-tale behaviour of people about to steal goods. A good operator could spot shoplifters the moment they entered the place.

Fast forward a few decades and face-recognition surveillance cameras can record and analyse more faces than ever but they are, in principle, no more sinister than one of those old-time camera operators quietly telling colleagues: “He's a wrong 'un, watch him.”

So I'm not too horrified at the latest face-recognition systems, controversially installed in dozens of Co-op stores which have been denounced as “Orwellian” by some activists. Critics say the cameras will treat innocent people as criminals and might even prevent people from buying feed. Co-op says the technology will help protect their staff from a nationwide spate of physical attacks and abuse. On this one, in line with common sense and family tradition, I'm with the Co-op.

What a difference a week makes. Last week in Endeavour (ITV) Roger Allam was a crime-buster trying to talk-down a murderer on the roof of a tall university building in Oxford. This week in Murder in Provence (ITV) Roger Allam was a crime-buster trying to talk-down a murderer on the roof of a tall university building in Aix.

But if Allam's characters of Inspector Fred Thursday and Judge Antoine Verlaque seem remarkably similar, spare a thought for his partner's mother, Florence, played by Patricia Hodge who is virtually a carbon copy of her pushy-mother character in Miranda (BBC). Such fun.

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